Life on Mars

Life on Mars

Read an article about life on Mars to practise and improve your reading skills.

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Reading text

A new study published in the journal Science shows definitive evidence of organic matter on the surface of Mars. The data was collected by NASA's nuclear-powered rover Curiosity. It confirms earlier findings that the Red Planet once contained carbon-based compounds. These compounds – also called organic molecules – are essential ingredients for life as scientists understand it.

The organic molecules were found in Mars's Gale Crater, a large area that may have been a watery lake over three billion years ago. The rover encountered traces of the molecule in rocks extracted from the area. The rocks also contain sulfur, which scientists speculate helped preserve the organics even when the rocks were exposed to the harsh radiation on the surface of the planet.
Scientists are quick to state that the presence of these organic molecules is not sufficient evidence for ancient life on Mars, as the molecules could have been formed by non-living processes. But it's still one of the most astonishing discoveries, which could lead to future revelations. Especially when one considers the other startling find that Curiosity uncovered around five years ago.
The rover analyses the air around it periodically, and in 2014 it found the air contained another of the most basic organic molecules and a key ingredient of natural gas: methane. One of the characteristics of methane is that it only survives a few hundred years. This means that something, somewhere on Mars, is replenishing the supply. According to NASA, Mars emits thousands of tons of methane at a time. The level of methane rises and falls at seasonal intervals in the year, almost as if the planet is breathing it.
NASA suspects the methane comes from deep under the surface of the planet. The variations in temperature on the surface of Mars cause the molecule to flow upwards at higher or lower levels. For example, in the Martian winter the gas could get trapped in underground icy crystals. These crystals, called clathrates, melt in the summer and release the gas. However, the source of the methane is still a complete mystery.
The world of astrobiology considers both of these studies as historical milestones. According to this information, Mars is not a dead planet. On the contrary, it is quite active and may be changing and becoming more habitable.
Of course, this means further research is necessary. Scientists say they need to send new equipment to Mars, equipment that can measure the air and soil with more precision. There are already missions underway. The European Space Agency's ExoMars ship lands in 2020 and will be able to drill into the ground on Mars to analyse what it finds. Additionally, NASA is sending another Mars Rover in the same year to collect samples of Martian soil and return them to Earth.
The possibility of life on Mars has fascinated humans for generations. It has been the subject of endless science-fiction novels and films. Are we alone in the universe or have there been other life forms within our Solar System? If the current missions to the Red Planet continue, it looks as if we may discover the answer very soon. 


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Submitted by mxoubi0 on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 12:49

I think the writer should say that A new study is published instead of saying "A new study published". Also he should say that in 2014 it found the air contain instead of "in 2014 it found the air contained".

Hello mxoubi0,

I'm afraid that neither of your suggestions is correct. 'A new study published' is a reduced form of 'A new study that was published' and adding 'is' would conflict with the verb 'shows' as the sentence is written.

As for the second phrase, 'it' refers to the rover and 'that' is left out: the rover found that the air contained methane.

Hope that helps you make sense of these two sentences. By the way, we check our articles multiple times before publishing them, so usually they are correct. Occasionally a mistake does get through, but for the most part you can trust that they are correct!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by VivianNg on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 17:50

Do you think people will live on Mars? Apparently, Mars seems not suitable for Human habitat in the current state. Human can't breath in the air. Mars emits thousands of tons of methane at a time, quoted the article. Inhale the excess amount of methane usually leading to unconsciousness or death. Is it any future technology can change the atmosphere in the Mars? I hope so. On the contrary, if we cannot change the atmosphere in Mars, we better evolve our physical body to adapt the condition in Mars. I don't think people will live in Mars in today technology, but I do believe there are opportunity for our technology growing up rapidly after thousand of years. I would say people may live in Mars in the unknown future!

Submitted by Rinaclau on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 18:30

I have a doubt; in paragraph 3 of this reading, shouldn't it be FINDING instead of FIND ("the other startling find that... ")?. Sorry if it is a silly question but I am still learning. Thank you!

Hello Rinaclau,

It's not a silly question at all! Both finding and find can be used as nouns, but there is a difference. Finding is used for the results of experiments and surveys, while find is used for physical discoveries. Thus, a medical researcher reports some interesting findings, but an archeologist announces an exciting find.


In the context of the text, find is used because the rover discovered something in the air with a physical existence: methane molecules. Of course, since these were also discovered through running tests, you could use finding here as well.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rowshon Ara on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 15:23

How query and result belong on that word which are not belong?

Hello Rowshon Ara,

The four words in the question are data, query, evidence and findings.

Query is the odd one out because it is a kind of question. The others all describe results of experiments or research, so they are the answers you get.



The LearnEnglish Team



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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sun, 17/05/2020 - 15:46

Yes. Since, it's quite active, changing and becoming more habitable.

Submitted by Jana Ahmed on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 17:24

I don't really understand the difference between those words: periodically repeatedly consistently frequently Can anyone please point it out?

Hello Jana Ahmed,

Frequently tells us that something occurs often.


Periodically tells us that something occurs at regular intervals (every day, every year, every decade etc).


Consistently is usually used with reference to people and it tells us that their behaviour is not random or changeable, but rather follows a predictable pattern in line with expectations.


Repeatedly tells us that something happens more than once. It is often used to show irritation at a lack of response: I've repeatedly asked for help but you ignore me.



The LearnEnglish Team